Feb 19 2018

Turkey, U.S. kicked the crisis down the road – analysis

The United States and Turkey have succeeded in bringing their relations back from the abyss during a visit to Ankara by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week, but serious differences remain over the future of Syria, said Thomas Seibert for Arab Weekly.

The meetings produced no agreements, aside from a pledge to set up working groups by next month to deal with differences between the two NATO allies, Seibert wrote.

Talks “produced promises of improved cooperation in Syria but few concrete details about that could be achieved, given their vastly different political agendas in the war-torn country,” he said.

Differences include a looming crisis over the region of Manbij, where U.S. forces are training Kurdish militants that Turkey says are terrorists but Washington sees as a key ally in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS). Turkish officials said Ankara proposed that the People’s Protection Forces (YPG) withdraw from Manbij and the area come under joint U.S.-Turkish control, but Washington has not confirmed this.

The United States will not accept the Turkish proposal, said Gonul Tol, director of the Centre for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

“That makes very little sense,” she said. “America wants the Kurds to run the town … It is crucial for the stabilisation effort the United States has in mind.”

“My sense is that nothing much was agreed to other than to kick the crisis down the road,” said Howard Eissenstat, an associate professor at St Lawrence University in New York and non-resident senior fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy in Washington.